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Wade sees Bron as future teamate
Wade sees LeBron as future teammate
By PETER VECSEY
Last Updated: 10:53 AM, December 22, 2009
Posted: 2:47 AM, December 22, 2009
"We know each other away from basketball, and I have an unbelievable respect for the person I've gotten to know during our seven years in the league."
MIAMI -- Dwyane Wade served that morsel regarding his relationship with LeBron James during our scheduled sit-down last Wednesday in the Heat's practice gym inside American Airlines Arena . . . and that's just an appetizer.
"So," I interrupted, "contrary to Magic Johnson's impetuous opinion and popular belief, you and LeBron could play together?"
"Contrary is the operative word," Wade accentuated, all gleam. "We can play together."
Sense a two-man game in the works? A stacking of the deck?
This was my first time interviewing Wade one-on-one, I'm embarrassed to admit. Considering the less than favorable conditions -- no accrued trust, restricted (20-to-25) minutes rationed by the Heat's publicity department, crushing my usual pre-conversation concept of foreplay -- I didn't expect he would give up much more than the predictable pabulum.
Shows how little I know Wade. Friendly and forthright, he's the opposite of your typical programmed pin-up player who answers questions that weren't asked with cliches.
Appreciatively, Wade doesn't mind amplifying on sensitive subjects. There's no shutdown after a sentence or two, no creation of awkward silence that pressures you to move on to something else. Instead, he expands with no prodding and furnishes you with more than you are entitled to know.
Not once did Wade say "off the record."
Before we refocus on the pending possibility of LeBron and Wade patrolling the perimeter together (as they did in a gold medal-winning cause in the Beijing Olympics), let's revisit Heat management's premeditated determination this season to tread talent in the middle of the pool rather than contend for a championship by surpassing the luxury-tax buoy -- or add any salary to next season's $30M cap -- like the Lakers, Celtics, Spurs, Magic, Mavericks, Nuggets, Hornets, Suns, Jazz, Wizards and, ahem, Cavaliers.
For owner Mickey Arison and team president Pat Riley consciously to squander Wade's superlatives for 82 games -- perhaps his last season in South Beach -- and not think he would take exception to it must mean they are pretty confident they have got him on tap for 2010-11 and beyond and believe they've got a legit chance to recruit LeBrontosaurus.
"I do want to stay," Wade said, repeating a mantra he's chanted almost every day since training camp. "However, I'm open-minded. I want to win! I want that! When we got Shaq I said, 'All right, we're trying to win it all now.' When he left, our direction changed.
"I understand the business side. I would've wanted us to make moves for someone who'll help us now and be here for the future, too.
"But I understand the plan. I'm willing to take a wait-and-see approach. I'm not the kind of guy who's going to cry to the media. It's Mickey's and Pat's job to figure it out. My job is play ball. I'm not putting pressure on them. I'm not putting a gun to their heads. I'm not saying it's got to be this way or else.
"I just want to make sure we'll be in position to compete for a title. I just want to make sure they bring in the beef.
"Is it frustrating at times? Yes, it is! I'm not in competition with Kobe, but then again I am. I want to be in that elite group that wins multiple titles."
Wade and James met in early June 2003 at the NBA's pre-draft Chicago camp. They clicked immediately. As the seasons passed, their friendship away from the game got stronger. But it wasn't until the summer of 2006 that they began to conspire; a plot was hatched to become teammates someday, perhaps.
Carmelo Anthony had signed a traditional five-year extension with the Nuggets. They also got five years but demanded and received an early out after the fourth season.
"Before we agreed to terms, LeBron and I had a couple conversations," Wade said. "I can't recall exactly what we said, but the gist of it was we wanted to give ourselves the flexibility and the option to play together.
"A lot of times in this league, players usually wind up going where they can get the most money. We're both blessed within that area. We've made a lot of money. So we wanted to base our decision on two things, the organization and the ability to win a title. And that's what we'll do. When the season is over, we plan to sit down and talk about it.
"I'm not saying it will happen. But I'm intrigued by the idea.
"I probably couldn't have handled playing with someone like LeBron earlier in my career, but I'm older now. You're talking about two big egos and meshing them. That'd take a lot of sacrifice on LeBron's part and it'd take a lot of sacrifice on my part to succeed. But we would succeed because we know winning takes care of everything."
Wade was really hyped at this point.
"For the first time, maybe the only time in our careers, we control our destiny. What do you think about that? That's the coolest thing about it."
Representing Team USA twice previously to 2008, Wade also found out he couldn't play with stars.
"Our personalities grated," Wade said. "That's why I say LeBron and I can play together. Our personalities work. Being on the court with him makes me unselfish."
"The options, that's what excites me about this. I like that you think it can't be this team [the Bulls] or that team [the Nets], yet another team [the Knicks] makes sense to you."
In Sunday's column, Wade had all but ruled out joining LeBron in lovely downtown Cleveland.
"I'd like to play here, but I don't mind where it is as long the organization is a good fit and it's committed to competing for championships. The unknown has me intrigued."